The Biden campaign and its allies are rallying around Vice President Harris, rejecting chatter that President Biden should reconsider his running mate heading into 2024.
A series of opinion columns published this week all suggested one way for Biden to juice enthusiasm among Democrats and quell concerns about his age heading into a second term would be to replace Harris on the ticket.
The columns drummed up a fresh news cycle about Harris’s political value, putting some Democrats on the spot about whether she is the best option to run alongside Biden and frustrating Biden allies who view the vice president as an asset heading into the 2024 campaign.
“It is the kind of chatter that is meant to undermine the president, his administration and his accomplishments,” said Karen Finney, a veteran Democratic strategist.
“He’s running for reelection, and he is running with the vice president, as they made it very clear in the announcement,” she added. “All of the talk is really absurd and unproductive.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), one of Biden’s most influential supporters in the House and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, definitively said Biden should not replace Harris as his running mate and argued her gender and race are playing “too much” of a role in discussions about her place in the administration.
“I think that Kamala Harris has done a great job. People want her in her first term, first two years, to be the kind of vice president that Joe Biden was in the sixth and seventh year of his vice presidency,” Clyburn said on CNN.
“Everybody gets a learning curve in this business,” he continued. “You aren’t born a United States congressman. You aren’t born a vice president. You’ve got to learn the job. She got elected, she has learned the job. She is doing the job efficiently and effectively.”
While questions over Biden’s age — he is 80 and would be 86 at the end of a second term — have dominated the news cycle in recent weeks, Harris’s role in the discussion took center stage this week.
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) raised eyebrows when she declined to say whether she thought Harris was the best running mate for Biden.
“He [Biden] thinks so, and that’s what matters. And by the way, she’s very politically astute. … People shouldn’t underestimate what Kamala Harris brings to the table,” Pelosi told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Pelosi said in a subsequent interview that the “Biden-Harris team is our team. We’re very proud of it. And we’re all going to work very hard to make sure they are reelected.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Thursday was asked on CNN whether Harris was the best running mate for Biden, and again he refused to explicitly say yes.
“So I have not seen any public opinion polling. You might be a stronger vice presidential running mate than her or me or anybody else,” Raskin told Jake Tapper. “I don’t know who else, if you’re talking about the polling. But I will tell you, as a matter of substance and public policy, she’d be an excellent choice. And she and the president have done an excellent job.”
The questions for Clyburn, Pelosi and Raskin followed multiple columns from the chattering class suggesting Biden should reevaluate his running mate.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote Tuesday that Biden should not run again in 2024. In making the case, Ignatius wrote that voters would focus more on Biden’s running mate because of his age. He noted that Harris’s approval rating sits at 39.5 percent in polls, according to FiveThirtyEight data, slightly below Biden’s, which is at 41.1 percent.
“Harris has many laudable qualities, but the simple fact is that she has failed to gain traction in the country or even within her own party,” Ignatius wrote.
Journalist Josh Barro wrote in his newsletter Tuesday that Biden should be focused on making sure his running mate is the “very best option to help him win, govern and lead,” concluding someone like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) would make the Democratic ticket stronger.
“The right question is not ‘should Biden fire Kamala?’ it’s ‘who *should* he pick for VP?’” Barro wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, when sharing the piece. “If you make a list of what makes a good running mate — popular, credible as a future party leader, helpful in key states — you’d never say Kamala is the #1 choice.”
In a column published Wednesday for New York Magazine titled “The Case for Biden to Drop Kamala Harris,” Eric Levitz said the vice president’s low favorability rating, her unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2020 when she dropped out before the Iowa caucuses and the fact she would be the de facto leader for the Democratic nomination in 2028 are all valid concerns about keeping Harris on the ticket.
Levitz acknowledged the move could potentially “offend and demotivate” swaths of voters given her status as the first woman and first person of color to hold the vice presidency.
Nate Silver, who founded FiveThirtyEight and has done polling analysis for years, wrote in a Sept. 6 column that polls released in the past year that asked voters about a hypothetical Harris matchup with former President Donald Trump show she fares worse than Biden does.
On average, Silver wrote, Biden and Trump were tied 44-44, while Harris trailed Trump 46-42, a small margin Silver said could still prove critical in a close election.
Biden allies were quick to dismiss the debate as a production of Beltway media that has no basis in reality.
“Ah yes. Because all of our success over the last four years has been guided by The Columnists,” Sam Cornale, executive director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), wrote sarcastically on X.
Julie Zebrak, a Democratic consultant, chastised Tapper for repeatedly pressing Raskin on the issue after the lawmaker called Harris “excellent.”
“@POTUS selects his running mate — not @CNN,” Zebrak wrote on X.
Biden campaign aides highlighted the enthusiasm and turnout at Hampton University on Thursday when Harris visited the school as part of a college tour designed to engage younger voters. Harris is expected to visit roughly a dozen other colleges and universities in the coming weeks.
The Biden campaign also noted that a fundraising email signed by Harris and sent out Wednesday after House Republicans launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden was the best-performing email sent in her name so far this election cycle.
“VP Harris is a force on the campaign trail. True in 2020, during the midterms, and will be again for the next 14 months,” said TJ Ducko, a Biden campaign spokesperson.
Harris has faced scrutiny over her job performance throughout her time as vice president, with critics questioning her handling of pivotal issues, like causes of migration and voting rights, highlighting the frequent turnover in her office early in her term and seizing on public missteps.
When Biden launched his reelection campaign in April, many of his advisers and allies lauded Harris as a crucial part of his bid for a second term. They pointed to her work on reproductive rights, which drove Democratic turnout in the 2022 midterms, and her ability to connect with younger voters and Black voters, two critical constituencies for Democrats.
Some Biden allies have suggested Harris is facing unreasonable or unfair expectations that are rooted in sexism or racism because she is the first woman of color to hold the role of vice president.
“Why is America down on her to the extent they are?” former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said on MSNBC. “Because she has done nothing to deserve this. I mean, this is a woman of great accomplishment.”
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